Color film, E6 process, and a Jobo ATL-1000
This post is for those of you who have always considered thier own color development but were unsure of the savings that come with it. One just has to do thier homework when setting up thier color processing station since many of our purchases will come from used sources.
In the spring of 2006 I picked up a used Jobo ATL-1000 from eBay with all the accessories for about $1500 CAD from China. It has become the single most important purchase I have made in my photographic career. My only regret is wishing I had bought one sooner.
I am a fine art color landscape photographer based in Ontario, Canada. I have been specializing in color photography for over 10 years now. Most of that time it has been a hobby. About five years ago I jumped into large format and never looked back. Those luscious, colorful 4x5 chromes look so beautiful and vivid on the light table. However, shooting color film, especially in 4x5, comes at a price. My Jobo has certainly slashed the price of development.
Let me give you an example:
I came back from the Canadian Rockies last year with 200 sheets of 4x5 and 30 rolls of 120. Had I taken the film to a local pro lab I would have paid $823 with taxes of 15% (actually I only pay 7% since I have a vendors license). With the Jobo I paid only $225 including tax! Thats a savings of just under $600! With that money I can buy more film, chemistry and still have money left over for Epson ink and media. I can even gas up for my next photo excursion. Aw, who am I kidding, those extra savings go to paying down my debts (which is still a good thing mind you).
Sure I have taken on the additional tasks of loading the film onto reels and preparing the chemistry but I think it is absolutely worth the savings. Since the Jobo is automated it frees up my time during processing to focus on other tasks that need my attention. Plus I can get my film back from an early morning shoot before noon, ready to edit and scan, so long as my chemicals have been prepared the night before. It only takes about 30-40 minutes to prepare the 7 steps in a Kodak E6 5 litre kit (the final wash is the 7th separate step to be done outside of the processor). In addition, I get all this in the comfort of my own home. Like I had already mentioned above, my only regret is wishing I had bought one sooner.
For those of you that like to see a number run then here is my breakdown:
Local lab process prices:
4x5 - $2.75 a sheet @ 200 sheets = $550
120 - $5.50 a roll @ 30 rolls = $165
Sub total = $715
+ 15% tax = $107.25
Total = $822.25
Jobo lab "David Nardi" prices:
Kodak E6 5 litre kit = $80 including tax
price per litre = $16
20 4x5 sheets per litre = 10 litres
8 120 rolls per litre = 4 litres
This requires 14 litres of chemistry
$16 a litre x 14 litres = $224 including tax!
In fact, my price is about $4 less because I have some wasted chemistry at the end of this cycle that could do 2 more rolls of 120 or 6 more sheets of 4x5.
I just wanted to share this with all my E6 color coleagues. Prices in your area may even be less that what I am paying. If you are dedicated to the color transparency like I am, then I would suggest you get yourself a processor. I would recommend a Jobo. It doesn't have to be an ATL either. Successful photographers have been and continue to process with the semi-automatic Jobo's like the CPP-2, CPA-2 and CPE-2. If you find one, do your homework and grab it if it looks like a winner. I'm sure all you know that Jobo has since ceased analog production (what a shame!). If you can't justify one of these, either for the price or the amount of film that you do, there is always the traditional hand-inversion. I'm sure many APUGger's would be glad to help you out with thier methods here. It is not terribly difficult to mix chemicals and load film onto reels. In fact, once you have your color processing station set up, you will wonder how you ever did without it.
David S. Nardi Photography
PS - do yourself a favor and get the full Kodak 6-step E6 kit. If you want the ultimate flexibility in push/pull and/or the most long-term stability in your film then don't take shortcuts with a 3-step kit. Though I have only read this fact (I'm sure many APUGger's would like to challenge me on 3-step VS 6-step), it only comforts my mind to use the full Kodak 6-step process much like the pro labs that I used to go to. Also, Kodak is a name that I trust and has a long reputation in the E6 processing biz.
PSS - these machines can even do color neg and B&W. John Sexton processes all his B&W large format in a Jobo CPP-2.
Last edited by David Nardi; 02-17-2007 at 08:37 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: intro paragraph and mild corrections
Welcome to APUG, David. I wouldn't trade my CPP-2 - the results are always consistent. As to 3-step vs 6-step E-6 - while many users seem happy with the 3-step, our own Photo Engineer has repeatedly warned us that combining bleach and fix on film processing will have adverse effects on long-term keeping of the processed film. If EK could have made a film blix that would meet its high standards, they certainly would have marketed it. I switched to doing my own E-6 when my local pro lab stopped film services. Their last rate was $8 for a 120 roll, and I now buy the 5 l kit for $50. My only regret is that I didn't switch sooner!
"I always take a camera, That way I never have to say 'Gee, look at that - I wish I had a camera'" -Joe Clark, H.B.S.S.
I use the same rig as Lopaka and would never do other wise! What got me doing my own was the first time some Ektachrome came back from the lab in pieces..."equipment malfunction." Sure, I got that free roll of film but that didn't replace all the images!
I figured that if I screwed it up, then I have only myself to blame, of course I still rebuild my own carburators!
I have always developed all my film, whether it is C-41, E-6 or b/w. I wouldn't have it any other way.
The ATL processors are great assets and make film processing far less labour intensive. I made the transition about 18 months ago and haven't regretted it much at all. As Dave indicated, errors have been my fault with the exception of a flow indicator error preventing the full amount of chemicals to be pumped. Jobo tech support resoved very quickly.
I have had no quality issues with using E6 3 baths kits from Fuji-Hunt and intially with Fotospeed before they ceased production. C41 and Pyrocat HD B+W also run happily.
More importantly the ease and relatively low cost of processing encourages me to make more images.
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I bought a CPE-2 one month ago, I'm saving about 50% of lab prices, and the quality I get beats any lab, including professional labs. I use the Kodak E-6 5 l kit too, I haven't tried the 3 steps kits, but I mistrust things that seems to be easier.
I should have bought one sooner too.
That sounds like a huge upfront investment. Can you do this in a stainless steel developing tank? Sending my Velvia to kodak means waiting a week and half for it to be developed. By then, the memory of snapping the shutter isn't very fresh in my mind.
Also, why sheets of chromes? Do you have a 4x5 projector?
It may be a huge upfront investment to some but it greatly depends on your needs. I shoot quite often and sell my work at art shows and in galleries. The $1500 investment in my processor will pay itself down soon enough (if it hasn't already) and save me a pile of development costs in the long term.
Originally Posted by reub2000
You can process E-6 in a stainless steel tank using hand-inversion techniques. This method requires more care on your part. Time, temperature and agitation are all up to you. It is a little more labor intensive but it can be done.
Shooting chrome film is a personal choice. A first generation chrome looks far superior than a print from a negative. 4x5 chromes glow on a light table with a richness and depth of color that I find unrivaled compared to other materials. I never project my chromes; instead I print them via high quality scans for digital output or use the classic positive-to-positive Ilfocrome print process. In fact, a well done Ilfochrome print is perhaps the greatest impression that you can possibly make from an original chrome. The prints, especially at 30x40, look so vivid and real that they jump out towards you.
David S. Nardi Photography
I bought a second-hand CPE2 for film processing. Using Tetenal E6 kit, it paid itself before the first kit was used up. There's only one local lab doing 120 E6, and none doing 4x5" and 5x7". Taking the postage into account I can do it far cheaper at home.
I do B&W in it too - 35mm, 120, 6.5x9, 9x12, 4x52, 5x7", 13x18, 18x24, 24x30 and 30x40cm.
-- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
I bought a CPP-2 a few years back to process my 4x5 E6 as my local lab wants a whopping $5.75 per sheet. So in my case I save a bunch on processing. I now also process all my 35mm E6 as well. I use the Kodak 5L kit with great results. Getting all set up took a fair bit of work but now it's a breeze.